Pittsburgh Penguins (1) vs. Boston Bruins (4)
The Pittsburgh Penguins proved to be too much for the pesky Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and the Boston Bruins cruised past the New York Rangers to advance to the next round. Both teams won their Round 2 series matchups in just five games. The 2009 Stanley Cup champion Penguins and the 2011 Cup winner Bruins will clash in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals for a shot at another title.
Pittsburgh's offense overwhelmed the Senators in Round 2 and they chased Craig Anderson, who has been superb all year, from the crease twice in the series. The Penguins outscored Ottawa by a 22-11 margin. Hat tricks by Sidney Crosby and James Neal as well as 10 points from defenseman Kris Letang helped lead the charge, while the goaltending of Tomas Vokoun remained steady.
Boston didn't pound the Rangers as soundly on the scoreboard as Pittsburgh did to Ottawa, but they were incredibly effective at controlling the pace and the momentum of each game. The Rangers were unable to manufacture much offensively in the series, while the Bruins received remarkable contributions from their fourth line in addition to their young blueliners. The play of Torey Krug was a highlight of Round 2 as he netted four goals in five games despite having only three games of regular season experience. David Krejci will probably enter Round 3 as the playoff point leader with 17 points in 12 games.
The Penguins and Bruins met three times during the regular season with Pittsburgh winning all three contests by one goal. The leaders in postseason scoring feature plenty of B's and Pens, so this series could feature plenty of offense. Both teams are deep enough to get contributions from anyone on their four forward lines as well as their defense corps. It should also be physical and intense, as both clubs have plenty of veteran players who know fully what's at stake. Boston had trouble with Toronto's speed in Round 1 and the Penguins are quick with plenty of firepower. Pittsburgh will also have home ice advantage, which the Bruins have utilized as a key part of their success in their previous two post-season rounds. One would think having Tuukka Rask between the pipes could be a decided advantage, but Vokoun has posted superior numbers in the playoffs and trails only Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick in save percentage (.941). If Pittsburgh has defensive lapses, he is capable of bailing them out. It will be a close series, but the Penguins should emerge victorious in six games.
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis
Jarome Iginla - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy
Brenden Morrow - Jussi Jokinen - Craig Adams
Beau Bennett - Joe Vitale - Dustin Jeffrey
Mark Eaton - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Doug Murray - Matt Niskanen
Deryk Engelland - Simon Despres
James Neal put his goal slump behind him with five markers in his last two games. He also added two helpers in those contests to close out Round 2 scorching hot. Kris Letang was also a force against Ottawa with a goal and nine assists over five games. He will enter Round 3 first among defensemen in points with 16 in only 11 contests. Sidney Crosby recorded three points in his past two games and six points in Pittsburgh's semifinal series.
Brandon Sutter didn't register a point in five games versus Ottawa. He has one goal and one assist in 11 postseason contests. Paul Martin concluded Round 2 with no points and a minus-1 rating in his last three games, but he still has nine points in 11 playoff matches.
Pittsburgh likes to shuffle up their defense as they gauge the temperature of the series, so don't be surprised to see Deryk Engelland and/or Simon Despres make an appearance at some point with Mark Eaton drawing out of the lineup. The Penguins don't have any apparent injury concerns, but Brenden Morrow did miss Game 4 due to an undisclosed ailment prior to returning for Game 5.
Tomas Vokoun hadn't won a playoff series in two attempts with Nashville prior to winning two with the Penguins this campaign. Pascal Dupuis leads the playoff with two shorthanded goals and he has five at even strength.
Pittsburgh's power play has been the best on the playoffs, while clicking at a 28.3 success rate. Their penalty kill has been solid as well and sits second among the teams remaining in the playoffs. It has allowed just four goals on 39 opposition attempts.
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jaromir Jagr
Rich Peverley - Chris Kelly - Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Carl Soderberg - Kaspars Daugavins - Jay Pandolfo
Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Matt Bartkowski - Johnny Boychuk
Adam McQuaid - Torey Krug
Wade Redden - Dougie Hamilton
Aaron Johnson - Andrew Ference
As mentioned previously, Torey Krug potted four goals and added an assist in five games against the Rangers in Round 2. Three of his markers came with the man advantage. Nathan Horton had three points in two games to close out the series and he had five points in five contests overall. Brad Marchand was much better in the second round with two goals and four assists in five matches versus New York.
Patrice Bergeron went pointless in the last three games of Round 2 after starting out with three helpers in the first two contests. He has just three goals in 12 postseason games and two of them came in Game 7 against Toronto. Jaromir Jagr didn't get a point in five outings against the Rangers and is yet to score a goal after 12 playoff games.
Wade Redden has been practicing with his teammates, but he missed all of Round 2 with an undisclosed injury. He hasn't played since Game 6 against Toronto and his availability for the Eastern Conference Finals is uncertain, especially with how good the team's youngsters have played in his absence. Andrew Ference, who has been seen on crutches and in a walking boot because of a lower-body injury, hasn't resumed skating since getting hurt in Game 5 of the opening round.
Johnny Boychuk leads all skaters in the playoffs with 45 blocks in 12 games. Patrice Bergeron hasn't had a lot of luck on offense, but he has been dominant in the faceoff circle where he owns a league-best 63.5 percent winning percentage on 252 total draws.
Boston's power play received a jolt in Round 2, thanks in large part to Krug, and now has seven goals on 32 opportunities. On the penalty kill, the Bruins have surrendered seven goals while being short 37 times for an 81.1 percent efficiency rating.